PITTSBURGH - In a move that likely had its roots near the end of the 2013 season, outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley will be released by the Steelers, eventually giving them an additional $8 million in salary cap relief this season.
The Steelers will designate Woodley for a June 2 release, meaning his cap savings will not go into effect until then. But they wanted to release him now to give him a chance to sign with another team during the free-agency period that begins today.
Woodley, who had three years remaining on a six-year, $61.5 million contract, was scheduled to earn $8 million and count $13.6 million against the salary cap in 2014.
By designating him for a June 2 release, Woodley will only count $5.59 million against their cap this year and $8.58 million in 2015. He will not count anything in 2016, which would have been the final year of his contract.
The net savings on the remainder of Woodley’s contract is $13.3 million.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Steelers had the most productive and disruptive pair of outside linebackers in the league with Woodley and James Harrison, who combined for 89½ sacks in a four-year period from 2008-11.
Now, in a span of 12 months, they are both gone, leaving the Steelers to rely on their outside pressure from Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones, their No. 1 draft choice last year.
Woodley’s production and dependability dropped significantly the past 2½ seasons because of injuries. He appeared in just 27 games since the middle of the 2011 season, registering nine sacks with no multiple-sack games.
His fate was sealed last week when the Steelers signed Worilds to a one-year transition tag of $9,754,000 for the 2014 season. The Steelers intend to sign Worilds to a long-term contract.
The move apparently did not surprise Woodley, who told several people last week he expected to be released.
Woodley might have received an inkling of what the Steelers would do last season when he returned from injury and was moved to right outside linebacker because Worilds was performing so well at left outside linebacker. Woodley never had played on the right side since the Steelers drafted him in the second round in 2007.
With the release of Woodley and inside linebacker Larry Foote, the Steelers have increased the likelihood they will take a linebacker early in the NFL draft and also pursue a veteran in free agency.
A possible landing spot for Woodley could be with the Tennessee Titans, where former Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is the new head coach and former Steelers defensive backs coach Ray Horton is the defensive coordinator.
--Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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